Call of the Wild

chapter 5 In The Call of The Wild

And when the club or whip fell upon them, the spark fluttered feebly up, and the tottered to their feet and staggered on, why is this an apt image?

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I think the "apt" image is one of slavery. Charlie and Hal are working their dogs with no regard for their well-being. The dogs get nothing in return for their work. Note the words "whip", "club" and "feebly". All have to do with violence and subservience.